Today, more than ever, advances in technology have made it easier to stay in touch and search for information at any time and place. While having this type of access at our fingertips makes life easier, driving at the same time can yield devastating consequences.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 3,000 people are killed every year from distraction-affected crashes. With more than 300 million wireless customers in the United States and the growing number of services designed to keep people constantly connected, distracted driving has become a common occurrence and a national problem.
Distracted driving is defined as any activity that diverts a person’s attention away from the road. It encompasses three main distractions:
- manual - taking your hands off the wheel
- visual - taking your eyes off the road
- cognitive - taking your mind off driving.
Common distractions include sending or receiving text messages or e-mails, eating or drinking, reading, grooming, talking on the phone or using other handheld electronic devices such as videos or GPS navigation. They all endanger the safety of drivers and other motorists. The most alarming of these distractions is texting, as it involves all three types of distractions – manual, visual and cognitive – at once.
Texting while driving is dangerous! In the time it takes to look down and send a text, it is estimated that you have traveled the length of a football field. Shockingly, statistics also show that texting while driving is equally as dangerous as operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Like alcohol and driving, texting and driving do not mix!
Earlier this year, I met with State Senator Maria Sachs to show my support to end distracted driving. She proposed a bill that would make it a moving violation for drivers to use anything but hands-free devices behind the wheel. I firmly believe tougher legislation is necessary, but it will not eliminate the problem. Our efforts must include education and awareness to address the blatant dangers associated with distracted driving.
According to the NHSTA, the highest incidence of distracted driving involves young drivers under the age of 20. Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue has developed a program to educate our more than 62,000 teenagers enrolled in Broward County public schools. The program includes a public service announcement written and directed by local high school seniors. It demonstrates the inherent dangers of this common practice, specifically texting and emailing. I believe this peer-to peer influence will be one of the greatest components of this program.
There is no doubt distracted driving poses a great threat to people traveling on our roadways. The Broward Sheriff’s Office is committed to combating this problem and helping bring this dangerous trend to an end. Every time you drive, before you reach for your cell phone, I ask you to take a minute and think – is this message really that important? Turn off the phone or put it out of reach. Don’t take chances with your life or the life of anyone else.
For more information about BSO’s efforts to end distracted driving, call 954-831-8902.
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